The move allowed Kidzu to triple their size, add new exhibits and create a partner program with Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market, said Kidzu executive director Pam Wall.
A climbing wall, theater and space for birthday parties are all new additions to Kidzu.
Wall said the expansion allowed summer programs and field trips to be offered as well.
“We’re 8,500 feet of awesome,” said Lisa Van Deman, the Kidzu director of education.
The theater exhibit, where kids can create their own set and manipulate stage lighting, is a salute to UNC’s Forest Theatre.
Van Deman said a former Ralph Lauren designer created all the children’s costumes for the area.
Kidzu also started the “To Market To Market” program with Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market, which is also located in University Mall. The program allows kids to tour the market and learn more about healthy eating.
Ali Rudel, manager of the farmers market, said Kidzu approached them about the collaboration. She said it was an obvious relationship to have because they have similar goals and values and that the market is committed to working with other community organizations.
“They wanted to bring kids to market and teach them more about eating healthy and locally and eating seasonal stuff,” said Rudel. “I think that reaching out to kids is actually a great way to get in touch with parents as well.”
Wall said Kidzu has a three-year lease for the University Mall space and that they’re working on finding a permanent home in Carrboro after the lease expires.
A group of 3- to 5-year-olds stopped by Kidzu Wednesday morning to test out the new exhibits. Van Deman said the trial run was a success.
“The areas such as the Millhouse Cafe, the theater, the areas that had a lot of loose pieces and a lot of moving parts were very attractive,” she said. “When the kids were first released to play, 100 percent of them ran to the treehouse.”
The colorful, engaging space is decorated with unique local artwork which reflects the museum’s commitment to supporting local artists.
“Everything you see here has been created in partnership with the local community,” Van Deman said.
She said that the museum also works with different departments at UNC and Duke to bring students in to work with the kids and teach them about science, math and art.
Following the grand opening, Kidzu is hosting a Week of Young Children Sunday to April 17. Events during the week will include Music Monday, Taco Tuesday and Family Friday.
Wall said they expect over 100,000 visitors over the next 12 months.
“We hope that the community will come out and support Kidzu,” she said. “We need support from the public to help keep the doors open.”